Authors: Alyxandra Harvey
This bridge will only take you halfway there
To those mysterious lands you long to see:
Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab fairs
And moonlit woods where unicorns run free.
So come and walk awhile with me and share
The twisting trails and wondrous worlds I’ve known.
But this bridge will only take you halfway there—
The last few steps you’ll have to take alone.
—Shel Silverstein, “This Bridge,” from
A Light in the Attic
“You tried to eat your boyfriend’s
Okay, so it wasn’t the most sympathetic response I could have come up with, but I couldn’t help it. I was punchy from fatigue and had what felt like an adrenaline hangover. And not only was I covered in ashes and bruises from fighting feral
vampires and blowing up a ghost town, but I was sure there was some kind of mistake.
Solange didn’t do stuff like this.
She looked so wispy and pale she was practically translucent, except for the blue veins that traced her collarbone. Her fangs
were out, all three sets. She held up a hand when I stepped closer. The light glinted off the personalized royal medallion around her neck. “Stay downwind,” she said tightly.
I frowned. “Are you telling me I stink?”
She nodded once, pained. “Blood.”
“Oh.” I’d been fighting
all night so she was probably right. Only clearly she didn’t mind the smell.
She frowned. “And gunpowder? Why do—” Solange shook her head. “Never mind, you have to help Kieran.
“That’s really his blood?” When she looked at me as if she was about to burst into tears, I swore. “Shit. Where is he? What happened?” She pointed to the line of pine trees behind the oak, the tall grass shivering around the exposed roots. I thought I saw a black combat boot. I broke into a run. “Kieran!”
He moaned, propped up against a tree, blood running down his neck and arm. There was a bite mark just above his collar, the flesh ragged. Under all the red, he was the color of boiled mushrooms.
“Kieran, can you hear me?”
He swallowed, trying to speak. The movement made the blood run faster, soaking his shirt. “Solange,” he croaked. “Help Sol—”
“She’s fine,” I assured him. I took the bandanna I knew was in his cargo pants pocket above his knee. It was standard issue for a Helios-Ra agent. I wadded it up and pressed it over his wound, trying not to feel nauseated. “Can you press here?” I asked him. “As hard as you can.” I glanced over my shoulder. “What the hell
happened to you two?” I slipped my arm under Kieran’s shoulder on his good side and tried to lift him. He weighed a ton.
“Don’t just stand there!” I shouted at Solange. “Help me!”
She stayed where she was.
“I don’t know if I can!” she shouted back frantically.
“Then call 911. What’s the matter with you? He needs an ambulance.”
“You know they can’t come here,” Solange said.
“Can’t tell anyone,” Kieran agreed, moaning. “They’d hunt her.”
While I certainly wasn’t going to let anyone hunt my best friend—even if she had turned my own boyfriend against me just last week—I wasn’t going to let
boyfriend bleed to death in the woods either.
“We’ll take you to the school infirmary, then.” I grunted, trying to haul him to his feet. He stumbled, sliding up the trunk. He was clammy and shivering. “We can tell them it was a random attack. But we need to get you there
. You need stitches.” I tried not to think about Solange’s teeth as the weapon that had gouged him. At least she hadn’t gone for the jugular. Small comfort. Blood was sticky on my hands. “Solange, I can’t get him to the van by myself. I’m not the one with vampire strength.”
“I can still taste his blood, Lucy.” Her hands were clenched so tight the knuckles looked as if they were outside her delicate skin. “I can smell it everywhere. It’s in the grass, in the air, on me. I’m not safe.”
I swore again, viciously enough to have made the proverbial
sailor proud. I fumbled for the nose plugs around Kieran’s neck and tossed them at her, grateful that Kieran was still a vampire hunter to his core, even if he was dating a vampire princess. “Put these on.”
I was a student at the Helios-Ra Academy now too but I wasn’t in regulation uniform, just my usual embroidered peasant blouse and crystal beads. I hadn’t even started classes yet; I’d been too busy killing monsters.
Solange clipped them on her nose, closing her nostrils tight against the violent scents drenching the woods. Even I could smell the coppery tang of blood, but it was making me queasy, not hungry. The nose plugs gave her a momentary reprieve, and she was at Kieran’s side so fast the wildflowers flattened around her. She looked awful, but she took Kieran’s weight, and we dragged him to the van. I opened the side door, and we slid him half onto a seat, his feet still dangling out of the open door. I was panting and sweating from the exertion. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept. But I didn’t have time to stop, not yet.
Not even for my best friend, who was suddenly licking her lips, her teeth faintly pink, smeared with Kieran’s blood, her eyes red veined and fierce. I heard the dry rasp of bat wings, felt the shadows of them moving toward us even if I couldn’t see them clearly in the dark.
We were in so much trouble I nearly gave up right then and there.
“Solange!” I tried to snap her out of the bloodlust. “Remember who you are!”
“I think I finally am.” She was practically purring.
I’d known she was in a bad way when Nicholas and I found her a few days ago, drunk on human blood, a willing donor passed out at her feet. And then she’d attacked me for making comments about the mysterious vampire Constantine, whom I’d never met but did
like. I especially didn’t like the way she said his name, as if he were hotter than Johnny Depp.
“Get in the van, Kieran,” I said, moving very slowly to stand in front of him while he struggled to lift his heavy feet all the way in. He pushed something at me, hiding it in the small of my back. It was too square to be either a knife or a stake.
“No, don’t go,” Solange said, pulling off the nose clips and tossing them aside. “I’m still hungry.”
Apparently adrenaline, fear, panic, and guilt could only hold out for so long against bloodlust.
Solange was gone.
I wasn’t sure who was standing in front of me. She might have Solange’s ethereal beauty and her ballerina grace, but she wasn’t Solange.
Oblivious, Kieran leaned toward her, as if I weren’t in his way.
Without his nose plugs, he was vulnerable. I’d grown up with Solange and her brothers so I was mostly immune. Theoretically.
Because, lately, Solange was breaking all of our theories.
Kieran didn’t even notice the bats swarming above us. I ducked my head a little, trying not to scream like a child in a Halloween
haunted house. “Crap,” I said darkly, shoving him down into his seat. “Solange, back off.”
Kieran leaned farther forward, his blood dripping on the car mat and out into the grass. He tried to shove me aside so that Solange could finish her dinner. I shoved back without turning around, making sure to poke him hard in his wound. The flesh was warm and ragged and sticky under my finger. I decided I might just throw up later. It was worth it though, as Kieran recoiled, hissing through his teeth. The pain broke the lure of Solange’s pheromones, if only for a moment. I elbowed him savagely so that he fell back completely into the van, and then I slammed the door shut on him.
Solange only smiled. Her eyes were veined in red, like an autumn leaf. “I’m still thirsty,” she murmured.